My mom has always been vehemently anti-microwave. There wasn't much scientific data behind her distrust but, man, it was potent! As a result, I used to avoid microwaves like the plague. However, in the past ten years or so, my vigilance has softened considerably. Although I've never owned a microwave, I had started using them to heat up my lunch at work. I'd even thought wistfully about how much easier it would be to have one at home from time to time - usually when I'd forgotten to defrost something... And (though I am ashamed to admit it now) I even advocated for the last office I worked in to buy one.
But those days are officially over! I am not a scientist or an expert on microwaves but I believe my mom was right to be suspicious of these time-saving wonder devices. They are bad for us on many levels. Here's why we need to stop using them now:
The Waves Are Dangerous
I've known you are not supposed to stand in front of the microwave while it's on (particularly if you are pregnant) since the fifth grade. How did I learn this? I read it in the users manual of the microwave my friend's mom had just bought! I figure if the manufacturer is warning you, you should probably pay attention.
Nuking Plastic Leeches Cancer-Causing Chemicals Into Food
A few years ago, I started hearing all this talk about how you should not microwave food in plastic containers because the plastic leaches carcinogenic chemicals into the food. It is supposedly worse if you're using a low grade plastic that is not certified "microwave safe" but I think we can safely assume that all plastic breaks down somewhat in a microwave (after all, look at what we now know about those Nalgene bottles everyone was so in love with - they leach cancer-causing chemicals, too, and you can't find a much higher grade plastic than a Nalgene bottle.) Granted, you can use glass but it does raise some concerns...
Nuking Food Changes Its Molecular Structure (For the Worse)
Last spring, I took a wonderful month-long Thai cooking class with Kasma Loha-Unchit, an amazing cook and sterling teacher who teaches out of her home in Oakland. Kasma has tons of kitchen knowledge and very strong opinions. One of those opinions is that microwaves are really bad for us. As if the waves and the plastic chemicals were not bad enough, Kasma added another bit of bad news -- microwaving food changes the molecular structure of that food in a way that affects our body chemistry and health, in addition to destroying some of the food's nutritional value. She quoted a study by a Swiss scientist (who got a serious smackdown from the Swiss government after his research was published.) A number of authorities have warned people not to heat breast milk for babies in a microwave several times for this reason - it denatures the milk. If it's not safe to heat milk for babies in a microwave, why would it be safe to heat food for adulst in a microwave? Studies conducted by Russian scientists in the 1970's also led Russa to ban microwave ovens in 1976 (who knew?)
The sources for this info are listed below. As I said earlier, I am not a scientist so I can't really comment on the validity of the research mentioned but I do believe that microwaves are unhealthy -- call it intuition -- microwaves give me the same "too good to be true" feeling that I've always had about non-stick cookware (which is also hazardous.)
I'd really prefer that microwaves were safe - they're quick and convenient and energy efficient. But I think we've gotta face reality before it bites us in the ass. Join me in signing on to the "No Nukes" pledge below.
The "No Nukes" Pledge
Because microwaves pose a proven risk to my health:
- I will stop using microwaves immediately. I will heat up my food using the toaster oven, stove, and oven because I know they will not pose a health risk to me or my family, even if they are not as speedy as the microwave. And I will try to remember to take things out of the freezer far enough in advance to let them thaw naturally.
- I will get rid of my microwave so that I won't be tempted to use it again in the future.
- I will encourage my family and friends to do the same because I care about them.
- http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_081606.htm (this was clearly meant to reassure us that microwaves are safe to use but I did not find it very reassuring.)